Professors Find Ways to Bring Election into the Lesson Plan

As Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton make the final push before Election Day on Nov. 8, Harvard faculty are working to integrate the historic moment into their teaching.

Andrew Warren, the professor behind the course English 190we: “David Foster Wallace,” said this year’s election was the closest he had seen to the “bent reality” of David Foster Wallace’s novel Infinite Jest.

That sentiment inspired the 14-hour public reading that he is planning in the Barker Center Cafe on Election Day. Wallace, often political in his writing, specifically engaged with electoral politics in Infinite Jest, where Nov. 8, or “Interdependence Day” is the biggest holiday in the world of the novel.

Warren said he is working together with his students to find the parts of the novel best suited to being read aloud, and also hopes to involve other faculty members, deans, and potentially friends and fans of Wallace from the Boston area.

By all indications, it looks likely to be a popular gambit; 130 individuals have indicated they are interested in the event on Facebook.

Maxine Isaacs, who teaches the freshman seminar “American Presidential Campaigns and Elections 1960-2016,” is taking a different approach. As results come out, she wants students to “sit back and enjoy,” she said, and take a break from rigorous analysis.

“They’ve been working hard and election nights are very exciting, no matter how they come out,” she said.

However, once the excitement of election night dies down, she said she expects students to put their minds to work again. In her class on Wednesday, the day after the election, she hopes her seminar will collectively begin to draw conclusions about the election. She plans to bring veteran Boston Globe political reporter Thomas “Tom” Oliphant into the class to look at exit polls and “try to make some sense of it all.”

Meanwhile, the Mahindra Humanities Center is planning to host a panel called “Dark and Stormy: Reflections on the Election” the day following the election. The panel will include professors from different fields, including history, philosophy and economics.

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